The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer

The Shock of the Fall

Published
23/05/2013

Publisher
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

ISBN
9780007491438

Source
www.readinggroups.org

My Rating
4.5 stars

Nathan Filer is a registered mental health nurse as well as a performance poet and his real-life experience is evident in this, his debut novel.   The story is narrated by Matthew, a nineteen year old schizophrenic who recalls the sudden, tragic death of his older brother, Simon – a death which he believes he caused.

The use of mixed formats, different fonts interspersed with occasional line drawings cleverly mirrors the ebb and flow of Matthew’s mental illness.  Likewise, the narrative flits between different stages in his life, before Simon’s death, after Simon’s death, during hospital stays, independent living.  This is an extremely honest account of one man’s journey through mental illness but there is also humour and great insight from Matthew as he sees how his brother’s death tore his family apart and left them adrift.

The characters are living, breathing creations, with their own foibles and imperfections.  You see the heartache of Matthew’s parents who, having lost one son, feel they are losing their only remaining child.  His Mum, is at her wits end, making lots of noise whilst Dad retreats into silence.  His grandmother, the wonderful Nanny Noo, accepts Matthew as he is, visiting him at his flat every other Thursday, never passing judgement.

If it wasn’t for Nanny Noo I wouldn’t give a shit, but when somebody cares for you as much as she does, I know it’s not nice to make them worry.

This is a beautifully written, moving story – the beauty is in the everyday detail of Matthew’s life – from the fleeting memories of a holiday in France to the stultifying routine of an acute psychiatric ward – eat, sleep, smoke…  It’s a novel which will stay with me when others have disappeared into the ether – you won’t forget Matthew in a hurry and you cannot fail to wish him well….or just to keep his head above water…

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